The sound of success is pouring out of the Miami Dolphins locker room. Joe Philbin has his players gathered around him in a semi-circle deep within Soldier Field’s bowels and is imploring his team to use this victory as a launching pad.
“Now we’ve got to get on a roll,” the coach tells his players so loudly, so enthusiastically, he can be heard outside closed metal doors.
The sound of failure, meanwhile, is coming out of the Chicago Bears locker room about the same time Sunday afternoon.
Brandon Marshall, the erstwhile Dolphins receiver now a Bears leader, is heard yelling at teammates. Afterward there are reports Marshall was yelling at quarterback Jay Cutler and kicker Robbie Gould, although details remains vague. What is crystal clear is the Bears sounded like they had discontent in that locker room.
The Bears, losers in three of the past four games and unable to break through in three home games, are fully “disappointed,” “frustrated” and feeling “sick” — all their words.
“We’re 3-4 and it’s unacceptable,” Marshall tells reporters later. “It’s unacceptable; 3-4 is unacceptable. Want me to say it again? We’re 3-4 and it’s unacceptable.
“You don’t get it tomorrow in this league. We’re halfway through the season. We’re halfway through the games. It’s time. It’s time.”
It’s bad times for the losers of this one, folks.
That’s the way it was bound to be no matter which team fell short. In a game matching teams whose seasons were teetering and who badly needed to win to keep negativism at arm’s distance, the Bears retreated to a bad place.
The Dolphins stepped up.
It could even be argued the Dolphins saved their season — at least for now.
“Probably,” wide receiver Mike Wallace said. “We probably did. We could have come out of here 2-4 and still have 10 games left, but it becomes a tough task. But we don’t even have to talk about that because we’re 3-3. We’ll talk about all the positive things.”
The amazing thing about this victory is it not only adjusts but, but indeed, changes the narrative for the Dolphins.
Last week they lost in bitter, bitter fashion to Green Bay.
So there were questions whether the team would lose its confidence. There were questions whether that loss would define the season.
I know, because I asked the questions.
The answers came Sunday.
“Our confidence really wasn’t lost coming out of that game,” receiver Brian Hartline said. “It was a hiccup. It wasn’t devastating like everyone wanted it to be or was saying it was going to be. Now we roll on to next week.”
The Dolphins move forward with a grand amount of good news to propel them.
Think about it.
Before this game we didn’t know how the Dolphins’ smallish cornerbacks would possibly be able to match up with 6-4 Marshall, 6-3 Alshon Jeffery and 6-6 tight end Martellus Bennett.
Before this game Dolphins tight end Charles Clay publicly admitted the season was not going as he planned.
Before this game Dolphins running back Knowshon Moreno was lost to a knee injury for the rest of the season. How would the running game recover?
Before this game the clock on Philbin’s time as Miami’s coach seemed to start ticking toward the end.
Before this game, everything written and said about quarterback Ryan Tannehill included the word “inconsistent.”
And while all we know about the Dolphins does not change in one week because of one victory, this result does offer perspective. It adds texture.
So here’s the wider view of this 3-3 team:
Start with Philbin. He and his coaching staff did a marvelous job of preparing the players. He and his staff did a marvelous job of not allowing last week’s loss to linger. He and his staff did a marvelous job of managing this game a week after they didn’t do it so well against Green Bay.
Had the Dolphins lost, the conversation in South Florida might have turned to Dolphins coaching candidates for 2015. No one in their right mind is discussing that now.
Tannehill, another frequent target of uncertainty lately, shut down the doubters at least for this week. He played his best game of the season and one of the best of his career as his career-high 123.6 rating suggests.
Tannehill still had minor accuracy issues — throwing slant passes behind receivers a couple of times. But he still completed his first 14 throws. He still got the offense started early and, more importantly, kept it going throughout the game.
Ryan Tannehill was Miami’s best player Sunday.
A CAST OF HEROES
And the exciting thing about that is there were a lot of other guys to pick from, including Cameron Wake, Cortland Finnegan, Brent Grimes, Reshad Jones, Wallace and Clay and running back Lamar Miller.
Clay’s day, which included four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown, was particularly gratifying because he is a young player with good potential but also potential for getting down on himself.
That possibility peeked through last week when he admitted the season wasn’t going as he planned. Well, Sunday went as planned.
“It was much better,” Clay admitted with a big smile. “For me it wasn’t from a statistical standpoint that I was speaking. I had mental errors, dropped passes, things like that. That’s what I was talking about when I said it wasn’t going as I planned.
“For me, when I get targeted three times and I drop one, that’s what bothers me. It’s a much better feeling getting on a plane when you don’t have any of those errors. Obviously, I’m feeling good right now.”
The Dolphins should feel good because the defense held up against what seems on paper to be stellar offensive talent. Miami shut Chicago out in the first half and caused as many scoring opportunities as it allowed by taking the football away on three turnovers.
All those things came together perfectly to make for a needed win.
All those things came together to sound like victory.